Religion claims its place in Occupy Wall Street

BOSTON— Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.

No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.

A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.

The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.

Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organize Friday’s Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement’s power. He sees his involvement as a duty, because so many in his congregation are affected by the nation’s economic woes.

“If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they’d be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people,” he said.

Canadian Irshad Manji releases new book

News Agencies – June 10, 2011


Canadian author Irshad Manji writes in her new work, Allah, Liberty & Love, that she has moved from “anger to aspiration.” A rallying cry to readers to question orthodoxy without fear, the book concludes with the suggestion they get together to trade ideas. Manji even includes a recipe for chai tea to fuel such discussions. Anger was at the centre of The Trouble with Islam, her 2003 worldwide bestseller decrying her own religion’s entrenched prejudice against Jews and injustice toward women. The book earned her many fans but also hate mail, pinched-face cranks calling her the daughter of Satan, and even a smiling man who leaned in to shake her hand but instead spat in her face.


Manji now lives in a book-filled apartment — she calls it her Manji cave — in New York’s Greenwich Village, where she moved in 2008 to launch the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In the course, she encourages students to “challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.” A regular on Bill Maher’s late-night HBO show — the audience cheers when she comes on the set — and on the networks MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia and, occasionally, FOX, she’s seen all over America and around the world. Manji writes twice monthly for The Globe and Mail, and contributes to The New York Times op-ed page and The Wall Street Journal.

Despite Manji’s wide audience in the U.S., her work has not resonated in parts of Canada’s mainstream Muslim community. “I don’t know why, but there seems to be little mention of Irshad in Muslim circles in Canada,” says Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.


Aftermath and Consequences

“On May 1st, New York’s Times Square was the target of a failed terrorist attack. In the extensive coverage of the incident, you will find the timeline of the incident leading to the arrest of the suspect right before he scarped the country. The coverage will also include the news following the arrest, the charges against the suspect and the debate around the suspect’s Miranda rights. It will review some of  the immediate consequences of the incident including debates about the effectiveness of the no-fly list, the heightened security measures in NYC and potential effects of the incident on US foreign policy. International dimensions of the incident in linkage to Pakistani Taliban as well as the coverage by Pakistani sources have also been included. Finally, a collection of links related to the suspect’s background is available.”

USA Today: Pakistani-Americans’ “Worst Fear”
Associated Press via CNN, CBS News, The Wall Street Journal: Questions about the No-Fly List
Associated Press via CNN and The New York Time: On Terror-Watch List Individuals Buying Gun
Associated Press via CNN and MSNBC: Bill aiming at Stripping Certain Americans of Their Citizenship
CNN: Tightening Security Measures at East Coast Airports
Associated Press via The New York Time and La Times: Extra Security Measures
Associated Press via ABC, CBS News, USA Today: Abandoned Truck Forces NYC Bridge Shutdown
Associated Press via ABC 4, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post: Police Investigates a Suspicious Package
MSNBC: Petraeus on the “New Generation of Terror”
Huston Chronicle: Petraeus: Suspect Likely Acted Alone
USA Today: Potential Effects on US Foreign Policy

Wilders: Champion of freedom or anti-Islamic provocateur? Both.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Geert Wilders, controversial Dutch lawmaker and creator of the inflammatory anti-Islam film ‘Fitna.’ It examines the dualistic conceptions of Wilders – as an advocate of free speech and secular values, or an anti-Islam and anti-Muslim provocateur. While Wilders acknowledges that the majority of Muslims in the West are not terrorist or violent people, he believes this “doesn’t matter that much” because Muslims in America and Europe are mostly immigrants, and are unable to leave their own cultures behind, which results in a loss of European and national identity and culture. More about the recent debates about Islam and Muslims in the Netherlands, with particular interest to Mr. Wilders, can be read at the link below.

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CAIR Welcomes GOP Call for Resignation of Anti-Muslim Leader

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed a resignation call by the New Mexico Republican party concerning local GOP leader Marcia Stirman, who wrote that Barack Obama is “a Muslim socialist” and “Muslims are our enemies” in a recent letter.

A party official said that Ms. Stirman’s statements do not speak for the Republican party. A CAIR executive said that the group welcomed the response and criticism of “Ms. Stirman’s disturbing and un-American views,” saying that “no political party should accept or excuse religious intolerance.”

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Wall Street Journal


Denver Post

United Press International

Market Watch

At rally, McCain refutes that Obama is Arab, says he is decent

At a recent town-hall style rally in Lakeville, Minnesota, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain refuted comments from a rally attendee, who told the senator that she could not trust Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama, because he was “an Arab.” McCain responded saying, shaking his head on the false accusation, and told voters that Obama was “a decent person” and a “family many.” While McCain was booed for his intended defense of Obama, others have condemned McCain’s response for being insensitive to Arab Americans and others who expressed that there is not disparity between being Arab, and being decent. The racist remarks from the rally attendee is another in a seeming trend of racism, bigotry, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab comments made against the Christian Barack Obama.

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New York Times

Washington Post

Wall Street Journal




Obama’s Muslim Outreach Director Resigns

Barack Obama’s national Muslim outreach coordinator resigned amid a controversy over his connections to man whom the Justice Department named as a co-conspirator in the racketeering trial of several alleged Hamas fundraisers. Mazen Asbahi joined Obama’s campaign just last week, and resigned in a letter to the campaign less than two weeks later, saying that he was stepping down to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change. Asbahi’s move came after the Wall Street Journal inquired about his relationship with Jamal Said, who served on a subsidiary board of the North American Islamic Trust with Asbahi in 2000, and was named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fundraisers. Asbahi himself, however, is not considered to have been part of the fundraising activities. Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter said that Asbahi is a victim of internet rumors, and a example of Islamophobia in politics.